A Stark Contrast
In my mind John 1:17 draws a sharp distinction between the religious experience of man under the instruction of Moses and under the instruction of Jesus Christ. I am obliged then to seek an understanding of the Bible which recognizes and honors that marked contrast. Under Moses the basis was obey and live; under Jesus that became believe and live.
The Mosaic system prescribed rules to be obeyed, rituals to be followed, and strict segregation. It was a do or die religion. God’s blessings were associated with obedience and those blessings took the form of national security, personal prosperity, and a promising future.
In considering the newness of instruction under Jesus Christ, I look for elements which transcend and dramatically redefine the old or are completely new. A simple rehash of or slight revision to the old Mosaic elements don’t meet the requirement that Jesus vastly exceed Moses. With that in mind, I now attempt to see the story of Jesus in a new way. If the instruction of Jesus called mankind to believe and then live, what did Jesus call us to believe? Based on my previous conclusion, that cannot be revised rules or rituals. That essentially eliminates most of what the church has been about for twenty centuries. The Jesus system cannot involve a perceived need to satisfy God’s requirement for justice either, because justice always involves the concept of rules and compliance thereto. That is Mosaic thinking at the core- do or die again- and a demonstrated failure as attested by all of the OT scriptures.
In looking at the message of Jesus, I definitely see religious concepts which boggle my mind and exhibit a counter intuitiveness which distinguishes them markedly from those of Moses. Pointedly, Jesus noted that the love principle superseded all the other aspects of the Mosaic Law. In fact, it was the foundation upon which the Law was based. In applying the love principle, Jesus taught that it applied across all the segregating boundaries that the human mind so readily embraces: ethnicity, religion, nationality, family, and even friendship. This new way of thinking and believing forever destroyed the idea of segregation as a religious principle. When Jesus commanded that his followers love even their enemies that eliminated forever the need to oppose evil in others in any of the conventional ways.
What else did Jesus teach that answers the need for a really new message? How about things like blessed are the meek and merciful and peacemakers; he that would be greatest is the servant of all; and, if you want to gain your life, you must lose it. The message of Jesus was one of victory through surrender, a surrender to a new way of thinking, a new faith. To illustrate the power of this new thinking, Jesus sacrificed himself, not just in his physical death but in His entire mode of living.
Finally, the focus of Moses was always on the future, anticipating God’s promised fulfillment. When Jesus came He announced that fulfillment. Today we can quit looking to the future and focus on here and now. That is where the message of Jesus was meant to apply.
The self sacrifice of Jesus projects perfectly His instruction in the new way. Jesus’ death juxtaposed the thinking of Moses and that taught by Christ. The followers of Moses were intent on identifying and eliminating a lawbreaker. Jesus was focused on forgiving His enemies. The contrast could not be more stark.